As we approach The Beyond the Known 2021 (BTK2021) conference from 26-27-28 October 2021, I want to draw your attention and engagement to Track 2: Accelerating MSME access to financial services through new technologies and skills development programme.

Access to financial services is important for any business, and even more so during crises as the recent COVID-19 pandemic has evidenced. Digital services and innovative finance mechanisms hold the promise of enhanced financial inclusion, especially for women, youth, migrants, and other underserved groups.

However, support mechanisms that rely on financing and digital financial services alone could have the unintended consequence of systemically excluding those without reliable access to technology and know-how. MSMEs also need access to non-financial services (NFS) such as information, skills, mentoring, networks, markets and business management technology to grow sustainably. – Information Note, Beyond the Known 2021

Many banks and financial institutions that support MSMEs and larger businesses provide additional non-financial services alongside their traditional financial resources. Non-financial services (NFS) often include business development services such as guiding SMEs on optimal use of existing financial services such as loans and financial aid, professional mentorship and business advisory services. Some also provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to gain operational skills, for example, in adapting their business model to an increasingly digital market and innovating in the face of disrupted supply chains.

NFS can be instrumental in helping businesses define their strategy, to survive, and to recognise and seize opportunities to thrive. As we emerge into the unknown of recovering from a global pandemic, there is a definite need for NFS to meet the emerging needs of small and medium businesses in order to “build back better” and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. These services can also contribute to business dynamism and resilience.

The entrepreneurship support ecosystem has already begun to adapt their NFS offerings to the peculiarities of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a post-COVID business environment. These include delivery advisory services via webinars, one-on-one sessions, and creating and delivering content such as online articles and organisational tools, many available for free. For example, during the pandemic, the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) of Brazil increased its credit channel, communication, and promotion efforts, while the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) began offering free webinars to guide and inform Nigerian MSMEs on areas such as crisis management and business recovery.

Partnerships will be vital in creating and maintaining programmes and structures that provide integrated financial and non-financial services for MSMEs – combining the expertise of development banks, incubators, firms creating technology-based frameworks. Such services must be easily accessible to their target SMEs, and most importantly, provision of NFS must be need-based, following an assessment of what is paramount to the businesses they are seeking to support.

Accelerating MSME access to financial services through new technologies and skills development programme will be a key part ofBTK2021conference from 26-27-28 October 2021. This online conference organised by BMZ/GIZEBRDIFCSwisscontactArgidius Foundation and ILO aims to gather practitioners engaged in entrepreneurship promotion, such as financial and non-financial service providers, public SME/entrepreneurship agencies, transnational entrepreneurship promotors, development partners, and international development organizations and NGOs with an interest in entrepreneurship promotion, to engage in peer learning and exchange of experiences.

Ahead of #BTK2021, entrepreneurship promoters were encouraged to submit their innovative solutions around MSME development via a Call for Solutions, in line with any of the following three identified tracks:

Track 1: Achieving dynamic and resilient entrepreneurial ecosystems

Track 2: Accelerating MSME access to financial services through new technologies and skills development program.

Track 3: Challenging inclusiveness and environmental sustainability in entrepreneurship

Over the three days of the event, from 26-27-28 October, 2021, I will be moderating diverse sessions, from panels to chats and plenary keynotes, designed to inspire, create new practices, and showcase bold solutions.

I look forward to hearing solutions put forward by entrepreneurship promoters and support organisations on the successful integration of financial and non-financial services for entrepreneurship support programmes in the Global South and the digital frameworks through which these services can be provided. Please register to attend #BTK2021 here.

About Parminder Vir OBE

In a professional career spanning 40 years, Parminder Vir OBE has dedicated her life to telling untold stories, resourcing the skills and imagination of under-served communities. She is an expert on African entrepreneurship, an award-winning film and television producer and advocate for arts and culture. She currently serves as the Chair of Ongoza, Kenya, and an Advisory Board member of Dalberg Media. She served as the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation where she designed and implemented a holistic entrepreneurship programme, impacting over 10,000 African entrepreneurs across 54 African countries from 2014–2019. She continues to advocate for entrepreneurship as the best path for the social and economic development of Africa.

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